It is a tradition that Ramsey's Braggarts Morris men dance one night each summer at izzy's ice cream cafe in St. Paul. The origins of this tradition are lost in the mists of ancient time, or perhaps last summer. We show up, we dance on the sidewalk outside the ice cream parlor, and the proprietor gives us ice cream. It is claimed (perhaps by us) that we are the official Morris dance team of izzy's ice cream cafe. So we scheduled ourselves to dance last night.
But yesterday was a wretched, wretched day. I had the day off work, so I spent it running errands. Each trip to and from my car was bitter and cold and wet. Traffic was bad. Streets were flooded. It didn't look as if the rain would let up by our meeting time, but izzy's isn't far so when evening came I put on my kit and headed over, thinking there was no way we would have a quorum or, if we did, that we would be able to dance. Certainly the musicians can't play in the rain; accordion bellows turn into wet cardboard in such circumstances, and tabors go thunk rather than boom.
By 7:30 the rain hadn't actually stopped, but it had eased a bit. I arrived to find squire-for-the-evening Douglas in full kit happily chatting with the emporium's owner. Michael arrived, also in full kit. Douglas asked me if I were willing to dance in the rain, and I pointed out that I grew up attending folk festivals where it always rained. Coincidentally enough, so did Michael, so we reminisced a bit about the Fox Hollow Folk festival in the 60s and 70s.
The conversation then went something like this:
Me: Oh, I'll dance, I'm fine, but I wouldn't ask anybody else to.
Michael: Yeah, I figured I'd show up and see.
Douglas: Matt and Russ should be here tonight
Michael (brightening): Oh, Russ will certainly dance in the rain!
Me: Ironman Matt would dance in the snow in the Himalayas.
At that very moment Matt and Russ arrived, also in kit, looking perfectly eager and willing. I saw Nat off in the distance, in kit. Nat is what you might call a good sport; I can't imagine him ever saying "We can't dance in the rain." He'd probably laugh at the thought himself. That made a full side. Well. OK.
Then Andy arrived, who would dance on the rim of a live volcano if you asked him to. Andy is willing to try anything.
Musicians Jim, Denise, and Bob were there as well, although a tad concerned about their instruments. Bob hadn't even put on kit, thinking surely we wouldn't be dancing, but he packed up his squeezebox and headed over anyway, like the rest of us.
We pulled out some umbrellas to cover the musicians and we blocked up on the sidewalk and Bob began to play and we were off. At that moment, at foot up, I started to laugh uncontrollably. I couldn't stop laughing for the first two or three figures. Dancing out on the side of a major street beneath a black sky in the wind and cold rain wearing white clothes with bells tied to my shins while waving hankies that grew heavier and damper every moment seemed like the most absurd thing in the world. I was happy as a clam, and just as moist.
Folks loved us! Many, many drivers going by beeped and waved enthusiastically at us. Customers stopped and stood outside and watched us. For one dance we pulled in a dad who was there with his kids and their friends. It was a lovely time.
We took a break for ice cream (Morris dancers eat free!) then danced some more.
On July 4th we held a team picnic and danceout at a block party where two of our team members live. The folks on the block were delightfully appreciative and over the course of the afternoon came by to ask us about what we were doing. I was glibly going on in response at one point when I found myself saying, "We do this to give people a sense that they live someplace." To be honest, I don't remember saying this (when I'm off on a Morris riff I am speaking in tongues), but afterwards Andy came up to me and said he really liked what I said there, which I made him repeat back to me. Oh. Yes, I do believe that.
Last night, on a close to record-breakingly cold July day, we gave a lot of people a sense that they live someplace.
My dancing shoes are nearly dry now.